Q: My neighbor on Kamooalii Street in Kaneohe insists on burning materials in her fireplace. At times during the winter months, and sometimes even during the summer, she has had smoke billowing 24 hours a day. She obviously is not burning a fire for warmth, as all her windows and doors are open. The problem is that our homes are close to each other and the smoke blows directly into nearby homes, becoming a health nuisance.
Take fireplace gripes to health department
On still nights, the smoke blankets the neighborhood like a dense fog.
What are the laws governing fireplaces in Honolulu? What options do we have to get her to stop?
Problem No. 1 is that fireplaces are not regulated in Hawaii, mainly because this IS Hawaii and fireplaces aren't common.
However, call the state Department of Health's Clean Air Branch at 586-4200 and they will go to the home to investigate your concerns, said spokesman Patrick Johnston. He noted, however, that the mission will mainly be one of education - explaining the neighborhood concerns and discussing what can and should not be burnt.
Problem No. 2 is that inspectors can only go so far without your neighbor's cooperation. Then it becomes a privacy issue, i.e., they can't just barge into the home to check the fireplace, Johnston said.
In reviewing previous fireplace complaints, inspectors have yet to come across anyone burning anything other than wood, he noted. In those cases, owners were advised to burn dry wood only.
Another way to tackle your problem, Johnston said, is to bring the matter before your community association, if you have one, or try to convince legislators to pass a law regulating fireplace usage or prohibiting it in certain areas. That has been tried before, but unsuccessfully.
Lastly, Johnston said, you can file a civil suit, "which also has been tried." We don't know how successful that was, however.
Beyond the problem of air pollution, which is the state's domain, there are city regulations governing the height of a chimney, the amount of open space surrounding it, etc.
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